A lot of digital transformation talk tends to focus relentlessly on technology but whilst this aspect is (of-course) important, my preference is to also talk about technology and transformation in the context of the behaviours, skills, resourcing and culture that surrounds it. As Henry Jenkins once said (almost a decade ago now, and a quote that Faris used to like as well): 'Our focus should be not on emerging technologies but on emerging cultural practices'. That, as they say, is where the rubber hits the road.
One of the central aspects to making transformation happen is for people to feel like they are part of the solution, and are motivated to work towards a compelling vision. And yet one of the least discussed aspects (and surely one of the best reasons for change in the first place) is that we currently have a huge employee engagement problem.
Gallup’s 2013 State of the Global Workplace study (part of a series of annual surveys that the company has been conducting since the late 1990s into employee engagement worldwide) surveyed 230,000 workers from 142 countries. It found that only 13% of workers feel engaged by their jobs (psychologically committed to their jobs, likely to be making positive contributions), 63% are 'not engaged' (lack motivation, putting less effort in, especially discretionary effort toward organisational goals), and 24% are 'actively disengaged' (unhappy, unproductive, liable to spread negativity). In other words 87% of workers in the world say that they are either not engaged, or are actively disengaged with their work. According to Gallup, this translates roughly into 900 million 'not engaged' and 340 million 'actively disengaged' workers around the world.
I think that's a pretty bleak and disheartening picture.
Looking regionally, the U.S. and Canada have the highest proportion of engaged workers (at 29%) but one of the interesting nuances to these figures was that when employee engagement is broken down by company size it reveals that a much larger proportion (42%) of employees that work in small companies (ten people or less) are engaged at work compared to the much lower 30% of employees that are engaged at larger companies.
Gallup has estimated that that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year. Their research (as measured by Gallup's Q12 employee engagement survey) shows that employee engagement is strongly connected to an organisation’s financial success, and business outcomes such as profitability, productivity and even customer engagement. Data from The State of the American Workplace report for example, shows that:
“...companies with 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee in 2010-2011 experienced 147% higher earnings per share (EPS) on average in 2011-2012 compared with their competition. In contrast, companies with a lower average of 2.6 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 2% lower EPS compared with their competition during that same time period.”
The exponential boost in earnings attributable to a higher engagement ratio, they conclude, is a competitive advantage that business leaders cannot afford to ignore.
It's my belief that many of the organisational practices that play well in a digitally-empowered world also play well with employee motivation, productivity and engagement. And I think that this stuff matters.